Speaker, Leader, Award-winning Author & Captain U.S. Coast Guard (Retired)
Be Bold, Be First, Be You: Martha LaGuardia-Kotite’s bold leadership style empowered her to be one of the first female officers to serve aboard two Coast Guard cutters with all male crews. Patrolling the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans as well as the Caribbean Sea, Martha remained true to herself while changing the rules of engagement.
Today, an experienced TEDx and keynote speaker, Martha presents to corporations, schools and leadership symposiums. Martha enjoys making a difference using her own “sea stories” and her profiles of top-leaders, courageous men and women as a foundation for her keynotes and TED style talks. Martha delivers life-changing stories enriched by hard-earned wisdom. She believes that no matter your age or experience, you can be bold, you can achieve your daring dreams and you can enjoy the journey of life!
A graduate of the Coast Guard Academy with a masters from Harvard University, Martha rose to the senior rank of captain and is an award-winning author of five books. Her inspirational leadership presentations and writing are influenced by her 29-year career serving at sea and ashore and the courageous trailblazers she has profiled in her books.
A senior leader, Martha earned numerous personal and team awards for her mobilizations during national disasters, missions saving lives at sea and work as a public relations spokesperson for the Service, the Commandant’s Press Secretary and a New York City public relations firm’s account director for IBM.
An emcee for the Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium in Washington, D.C., she hosted the event for over 1,000 military women and men. Martha’s personal and life-long commitment to making a difference fuel her presentation topics about Martha’s Changing the Rules of Engagement: Building A High Performance Team, Leading Your Crew Through Calm and Turbulent Seas, Creating a Culture of Empowerment: Be Bold. Be First. Be You. She offers leadership profiles, courageous stories and her own experiences working national disasters for her audiences.
She travels around the nation sharing her own inspirational stories of courage and leadership along with those from her books. Changing The Rules of Engagement features military women who helped shape the culture of our military with their breakthrough careers as fighter pilots, astronauts, soldiers and divers. So Others May Live shares the inside story of how the Coast Guard’s rescue swimmer program, a plan initially shelved due to budget constraints, was developed from two national crises and the challenges that followed rolling it out both internally and in harsh environments.
A wife and mother of two sons, Martha served 10 years on active duty with two tours at sea as the first woman leading teams on missions aboard a ship sailing the Pacific Ocean and as executive officer of a 110-foot patrol boat patrolling the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Career assignments included law enforcement, search & rescue, joint operations, contingency planning from Alaska, across the West Coast of North American to Hawaii, Key West and New York. Transitioning to the reserves, she moved into New York City working for a public relations technology firm for clients like IBM and continued part time as the Coast Guard’s New York Enforcement and Governmental Affairs Officer. Hand-picked to work in Washington, D.C. as the Commandant’s Press Secretary, the bookends of this tour were the Haitian earthquake and 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill responses. She held senior leadership positions developing Coast Guard policy on climate change in Washington, D.C. and overseeing training and deployment of reserves to national incidents in New York, Boston, Alabama, Florida & Ohio.
Captain LaGuardia-Kotite’s professional studies began with a Bachelor of Science in Government from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and a Master of Liberal Arts degree in journalism from Harvard University. An Emergency Preparedness Liaison to FEMA she earned the highest national incident management certifications as a Type I Public Information & Liaison Officer. She is a trained in Applied Suicide Intervention Skills (ASIST). She directed and co-produced a suicide prevention training video used by the US Navy & Coast Guard.
Credentialed as National Master of Vessels less than 100-tons, Martha will be driving zodiacs around the globe and lecturing on board Seabourn cruise ships as a member of the Seabourn Ventures team.